ALEXANDRIA, Va. (FOX 5 DC) - The Department of Justice announced Wednesday that nearly a dozen MS-13 gang members or close associates have been arrested and charged in connection with the sexual exploitation and physical abuse of a minor in Maryland and Northern Virginia.
Court documents say a 13-year-old girl ran away from a Northern Virginia youth home in August 2018. Shortly after, the teen was introduced to members of the MS-13 gang.
According to court documents, the 13-year-old was beaten with a baseball bat 26 times by MS-13 gang members as a part of a gang initiation. Then, she was sex trafficked in Virginia using cash and drugs as currency.
The teen was later beaten again 26 times with a bat, according to court documents, and then sold to numerous gang members and other customers in Maryland in exchange for cash.
FOX 5's Josh Rosenthal reports that law enforcement officers recovered photos and videos of the victim while she was being sexually exploited, along with numerous social media messages regarding the trafficking and sexual exploitation of the teen, according to the DOJ.
If convicted, the DOJ says each defendant charged with sex trafficking of a minor faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison, and each defendant charged with VICAR assault faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison if convicted of that offense.
The suspects arrested and charged in connection with this investigation are listed as follows:
- Moises Orlando Zelaya-Veliz, 25, Woodbridge, Va.
- Sioni Alexander Bonilla Gonzalez, 20, Woodbridge, Va.
- Carlos Jose Turicios Villatoro, 22, Woodbridge, Va.
- Jose Eliezar Molina-Veliz, 20, Woodbridge, Va.
- Santos Ernesto Gutierrez Castro, 21, Woodbridge, Va.
- Luis Alberto Gonzales, 31, Greenbelt, Md.
- Reina Elizabeth Hernandez, 48, Hyattsville, Md.
- Nelson Ezequiel Caballero Portillo, 24, College Park, Md.
- Gilberto Morales, 31, Hyattsville, Md.
- Jonathan Rafael Zelaya-Veliz, 24, Hyattsville, Md.
- Orlando Alexis Salmeron Funez, 38, Riverdale, Md.